When she first travelled to Kenya as a teenage volunteer, Roxanne was struck by the profound beauty, wretched poverty and the strong and resourceful women she met.
Her task was to start a fair trade program so women in the impoverished communities could sell their beadwork to visitors. Inside their small huts, the mamas showed Roxanne their exquisite handiwork, objects they used in rituals surrounding birth, marriage, warriorhood and death. Thinking of their craft as not art but necessity, these women could not believe that Roxanne wanted to sell their work and return the profits to them and their families.
In helping empower these women, Roxanne found her calling.
She went on to graduate from Stanford University with a degree in international relations, earn a coveted Rhodes scholarship and a law degree at Oxford, and clerk for the Supreme Court of Canada. But rather than pursue a conventional career, she chose to bring her training back to the communities that first inspired her.
As founder of ME to WE Artisans, Roxanne now leads social and economic empowerment initiatives for women in Kenya’s Maasai Mara and in Ecuador. Infusing centuries-old traditions with modern elements, ME to WE collections share the artistry of indigenous cultures with North American consumers looking to make a positive impact through their purchase.
A beading project that started with 25 women now provides fair wages to more than 1,500. By joining Artisans, each woman is able to build her savings to do things that were previously impossible: improve her home, buy food and medicine for her family, send her children to school, and emerge as a leader in her own right.
Roxanne’s continued commitment to the Artisans program has led to widespread retail traction, with ME to WE products now being sold in over 12,000 locations across North America through partnership with influential retailers.
As CEO of ME to WE, Roxanne has led the creation of its unique volunteer offerings, allowing travellers to break free from a touristic experience and find meaningful connections in communities where ME to WE’s charitable partner, WE Charity, puts its 20-year history of sustainable development to work. She established Bogani Cottages and Tented Camp, a first-of-its-kind facility designed as a rejuvenating home base for youth, adults, families and corporate groups volunteering in Kenya. The success of Bogani led Roxanne to expand this niche experience with the creation of Araveli Cottages and Tented Camp in Rajasthan, India, and the Minga Lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Roxanne was awarded an honorary doctorate from Nipissing University in 2012 and received the Order of Canada in May 2017. ME to WE is a certified B Corporation, an indication of high social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.
Russell McLeod joined the WE Charity and ME to WE teams in early 2004. He is a driving force behind the ME to WE philosophy and business model, and since his appointment, ME to WE has donated over $6 million to WE Charity.
A business graduate from the University of Ottawa, Russell worked closely with Peter Koppel in the creation of the Telfer School of Management Career Centre.
Prior to his role at ME to WE, Russell served until 2010 as the Director of WE Day, overseeing its growth from a single event in 2007 with 6,000 young people in attendance, to a five-city Canadian phenomenon by 2010, attended by 44,000 youth representing 1,200 schools. WE Day activities that year inspired students to donate $4.5 million and volunteer one million hours of service to more than 500 charities across Canada. Building on the foundation that Russell developed, WE Day has continued to expand in Canada, the US and UK—14 cities in all—and now reaches almost 200,000 youth each year with its celebration of service and inspirational stories of leadership and change.
Meet ME to WE Executive Director Director Russ McLeod and learn how ME to WE makes a lasting impact.
Brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger are social entrepreneurs and co-founders of a family of organizations dedicated to the power of WE, a movement of people coming together to change the world. Together, they co-founded WE Charity, which provides a holistic development model called Free The Children’s WE Villages, helping to lift more than one million people out of poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Back at home in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, WE Schools and WE Day provide comprehensive service learning programs to 10,000 schools, engaging 2.4 million young change-makers. Lastly, they co-founded ME to WE, a pioneering social enterprise, the profits from which help sustain the work of their charitable organization.
Craig is the youngest ever graduate from the Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA program. He has also received 15 honorary doctorates and degrees for his work in the fields of education and human rights. Craig is a New York Times bestselling author, who has published 12 books, as well as a nationally syndicated columnist. Craig has received The Order of Canada, the Nelson Mandela Freedom Medal and the World Children’s Prize. He was recently voted by Canadians as one of Canada’s top most trusted influencers in a Readers Digest poll, and along with his brother Marc, he was named Canada’s Most Admired CEO in the public sector in 2015.
Marc graduated from Harvard University with a degree in International Relations. He won a Rhodes Scholarship and completed a law degree from Oxford University. He has also received 10 honorary doctorates and degrees for his work in the fields of education and human rights. Marc is a New York Times bestselling author, who has published 8 books, as well as a nationally syndicated columnist. He is the recipient of many honors, including the Order of Canada, and was selected by the World Economic Forum as one of the world’s Young Global Leaders. Marc was also recently inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame for his humanitarian efforts and his work to empower youth to change the world. In 2015, along with his brother Craig, he was named Canada’s Most Admired CEO in the public sector.